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Clinical assessment of the musculoskeletal system

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Issue 11-2

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Introduction to musculoskeletal assessment

Clinical skills – i.e. competent history taking and examination – are the key to making an accurate diagnosis and assessment of a patient complaining of joint problems.

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The musculoskeletal history

The aims of the history will be to differentiate between inflammatory and degenerative/mechanical problems, to identify patterns that may help with diagnosis, and to assess the impact of the problem on the patient.

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The musculoskeletal examination: GALS

GALS (Gait, Arms, Legs, Spine) is a brief screening examination which takes 1–2 minutes and has been shown to be highly sensitive in detecting significant abnormalities of the musculoskeletal system.

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The musculoskeletal examination: REMS – general principles

Regional examination of the musculoskeletal system (REMS) refers to a detailed examination that should be carried out once an abnormailty has been detected either through the history or through the screening examination GALS.

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Imaging of bones and joints, blood tests and synovial fluid analysis are the three main types of investigations which can be useful in assessing a patient's joint problems.

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Paediatric Musculoskeletal Matters

An online resource for clinicians wishing to enhance their skills in assessing and managing musculoskeletal problems in children

Resources and opportunities for medical students (video)

Find out how Arthritis Research UK helps medical students develop their interest in musculoskeletal medicine

pGALS: a screening examination of the musculoskeletal system in school-aged children

For a full illustrated discussion of pGALS see our Hands On report (published June 2008)


a website for students of musculoskeletal medicine.  Register for free access to personalised learning features, or just browse.

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